This is the hardest liturgy of the church year for me.
Every year I grow anxious as the Good Friday liturgy approaches.
And I think it’s because, if I’m being honest, I don’t want to listen to this part of the story.
Actually, I don’t want to help tell this part of the story, either.
Since the middle ages—this Good Friday Liturgy was-- and still is in some places--used to justify violence and hatred towards our Jewish brothers and sisters.
To be clear:— Crucifixion was a Roman form of capital punishment. Jesus was crucified by the Roman state; not by the Jewish people.
Still, the Good Friday readings and liturgy remain misunderstood and misused in too many Christian communities, hurting our Jewish Brothers and Sisters.
And so, every year I find myself dreading, just a little bit more than I care to admit, the Good Friday liturgy.
There is a theologian in me who wants to exegete and refute and explain.
Except, there is no Good Friday explanation. There is only invitation.
An invitation to the work—the liturgy—that tells the story of how Jesus died so to remember Christ’s death.
There is no skipping this part of the story and rushing ahead to Easter Sunday.
Christians remember the death of Jesus on Good Friday—because while we are most certainly a “Resurrection People”--our identity with the resurrection is bound by our remembrance of the crucifixion.
We know life comes from death because of Christ's crucifixion. And, we know only because we remember.
It is written at the Holocaust Memorial: “Remembrance is the beginning of Redemption.”
Our remembrance of death is the beginning of our redemption from death.
Our remembrance of the crucifixion redeems us for the Resurrection.
Fear and Hate and Empire nailed Jesus to the Cross--
Good Friday remembrance is to remember that we are capable of crucifying and torturing and mocking and hating another human being.
Good Friday remembrance is to remember that like Pontius Pilate, we who find ourselves in positions of power too often wash our hands of our authority to do what is right and just.
Good Friday remembrance is to remember that like the women who watched from a distance—we too know what it is to watch, powerless, as the person we love suffers and dies.
And we remember that like the women at the Cross, we will summon the courage and strength to tend to our loved ones in their death and dying—even as we grieve the deepest, greatest loss of our lives.
We remember so that we might be redeemed.
We remember our power to crucify—our complicity in the face of cruelty as well as our courage in the midst of hopelessness so thatwe might be redeemed for the work of resurrection: to heal, to hope, and to disarm the power of empire.
This Good Friday liturgy is not meant to be an explanation of why Jesus suffered on the cross.
Instead, it is an invitation to tell this part of the Jesus story. It is an invitation to remember.
Rumi, the thirteenth-century Islamic mystic writes, “every story is us.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ: This Good Friday story is us.
It is Triumph. And Betrayal. And Violence.
It is a small community gathered at the foot of the cross.
Waiting. Not knowing. Not understanding.
It is Mystery.
This story is us.
It is Paradox and Passion.
Power and Weakness.
Remembrance and Redemption.
I don't have an explanation for you about why the story has to be this way--
I don't understand the viciousness of humanity. I don't care to intellectualize hate and violence.
I cannot preach a Good Friday explanation to you this evening. I can only invite you to remember the story.
And to dwell here a little longer—because our story doesn’t end tonight.
Like the first disciples we are invited to remain.
To not give up when the story feels unresolved and impossible.
These ancient liturgies of Holy Week: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, The Easter Vigil, and Easter Morning—are our stories to remember.
We need not be burdened with any explanation of why.
Ours is simply—but not so simply—to dwell in the story and the symbol and the ritual and the song.
My Sermons (and other thoughts)
a sampling of sermons preached in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona and a sprinkling of other writings